Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Tories who seem to understand the importance of marriage


IN THE early days of The Conservative Woman it was always hoped that we might bring the lost un-Conservative Party to heel. With Nick Fletcher talking about men, Suella Braverman about migration and Kemi Badenoch talking about racism (or its absence) is there still a gleam of hope?

Two MPs who seem to have ‘got’ the assault on the family of social engineering tax and benefits policies over the last 30 years are Miriam Cates and Nick Fletcher. Their New Conservatives’ Tax Plan for families and small businesses explains this destruction and the need for reform. 

(Yes, we have been here before, here and here.) 

Cates and Fletcher focus on the Higher Income Child Benefit Tax Charge that takes money away from families with children as soon as one earner goes above £50,000, while dual-earner couples can earn up to £100,000 without any child benefit withdrawal at all. Penalties increase with each extra child; for higher rate taxpayers the effective marginal tax increase is 13 per cent for families with one child, 21 per cent for families with two, and an additional 8 per cent for each further child. It is getting worse. Previously 13 per cent of families were hit by this tax charge. By 2025 it will impact 31 per cent.

Cates has talked elsewhere about the benefits and advantages which accrue to the children of married parents, a case made time and again on TCW to no avail, and how these benefits do not accrue to the unmarried poor.

Taxes are not the only problem. Benefits, now called universal credit, are given based on household income with the result that if you are on low or no income and your partner or spouse moves in with you, their income is added to the household income on which welfare payments are calculated. Young mothers on low income stand to lose part or all their universal credit if they move in with a partner. It is a disincentive to partnership formation. 

Both policies undermine marriage. Both are a product of a feminist ideology which believed women should be freed from any financial dependency on men. Since marriage is the quintessential embodiment of that dependency, the principal aim of feminism is, and always was, to smash it. Patricia Hewitt, Harriet Harman, Polly Toynbee and Dame Jenni (‘marriage is legalised prostitution’) Murray were prominent in this successful cause. 

Another was Baroness Hale, who notably proposed that we consider ‘whether the legal institution of marriage continues to serve any useful purpose’. She was married for 49 years.

Professor Carol Smart CBE explained that while abolishing marriage might sound unpopular or unrealistic, tackled indirectly it could be done: ‘It would be far more effective to undermine the social and legal need and support for the marriage contract. This could be achieved by withdrawing the privileges which are currently extended to the married heterosexual couple. Such a move would not entail any punitive sanctions but would simply extend legal recognition to different types of households and relationships, and would end such privileges as the unjustified married tax allowance. Illegitimacy would be abolished by realising the right of all women, whether married or single, to give legitimacy to their children. Welfare benefits and tax allowances would also need to be assessed on the basis of individual need or contribution and not on the basis of the family unit.’

The different types of households and relationships which Carol Smart called for have indeed been introduced through same sex marriage, undermining the centrality of family to marriage and putting the sex relationship between two individuals centre stage instead. 

These destructive ideas are embedded in the policies of Conservative as well as Labour governments to this day and go right back to Baroness Hale’s clause from the 1989 Children Act, para 2(4), which abolished ‘the rule of law that a father is the natural guardian of his legitimate child’, denying the fundamental paternal right and responsibility while ensuring the mother could achieve social legitimacy without the father around

Feminist politicians and academics argued that public resources should be used to support children and those who care for them (i.e. women) rather than for married parents

Though it was recognised that ‘Ashift of resources away from the married couple’s allowance would, of course, affect married men’s take-home pay’, it went ahead. The married couple’s allowance was ceased for except for those over 65 in 2000, negatively impacting on the male wage.

The feminist strategy of striking a blow at marriage by attacking the male wage was well gauged. Extensive evidence has shown that women want to marry men who are reliable earners. Male employment increases the chances of marriage. While women’s earnings do not affect the likelihood of marriage, men’s earning potential clearly does

One study has explored how a cohabiting couple’s relative economic contribution affected the couple’s transition to marriage and found the higher the man’s annual earnings the greater the likelihood of marrying rather than continuing to cohabit. Having a college degree increased the odds of marrying by 150 per cent. Full time male employment significantly reduced the odds of separation. The odds of marriage or separation could be predicted from men’s economic characteristics alone. 

Another startling study has shown how lower pay impacts on men and women differently. In situations where only the woman’s wage decreased this had the effect of lowering the fraction of teen births and produced an even greater decline in the proportion of out of wedlock births. They suggest that this was because the relative value of the men’s wages increased for women. 

The implication of these findings is that where men have low earnings, and women have state support, marriage becomes an increasingly rare social good. Latest figures from the ONS show that 71 per cent of parents in the top two social groups are married compared with just 18 per cent in the poorest group. 

Miriam Cates should know that marriage improves the lives, incomes, health and well being of the married couple and their children. It is an enormous asset which we should be providing to the poor, and that it is actually the linchpin through which social inequality, social instability is reduced and child welfare improves. To date, her party, in their appeasement of the left, have refused to break with the ‘all lifestyles are equal’ mantra, terrified of being cast as toxic Tories.

Whether they will listen to Cates and Fletcher’s suggestion to scrap the Higher Income Benefit Tax Charge to strengthen the family and marriage – we can only hope.

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Belinda Brown
Belinda Brown
Belinda Brown is author of 'The Private Revolution' and a number of well-cited academic papers. More recently, she has started writing and blogging for The Daily Mail and The Conservative Woman. She has a particular interest in men's issues and the damage caused by feminism.

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